You Shall Pursue

November 14, 2012

Thoughts on Patrilineal Descent: On Outing Myself to my Students

Filed under: Jewish Communitty, Patrilineal Descent, Rabbinical School — marleyweiner @ 3:54 am

My high schoolers know that my mom isn’t Jewish (Or at least, some of them do. I’ve been dropping it into the conversation as it’s relevant). My 4th graders do not know. So, of course, it’s my 4th graders who are interested in talking about intermarriage and patrilineal descent (The big question: can someone with only one Jewish grandparent go to Hebrew School?).

I have my own answers to their questions, which are complicated by the fact that I teach at a Conservative synagogue which has a policy in place that patrilineal Jewish students have to undergo a conversion ceremony to have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. I’ve invited the Education Director and the rabbi to teach about their policies in what, I am sure, will be the kindest and gentlest way possible. I hope my students get something out of it, and feel affirmed by their synagogue at the end of the talk. But I’m still trying to situate myself within this conversation. How can I affirm the policies of my place of work, and affirm the Jewish identities of any students I may have who are patrilineal Jews, while still remaining true to my own beliefs about my Jewish identity?

The funny thing is that I took this job in part because our Education Director is so brilliant about interfaith and other issues of intersectionality. She knows about my heritage, and has been nothing but supportive of my working with these students. But it is still massively challenging to figure how how to work within a situation where my Jewish choices go against organizational culture. I’m kind of at a loss.

… Does anyone have any thoughts?

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